Us­ing a wealth of na­tive fruits, herbs, and spices, Full Cir­cle Craft Dis­tillers is set to change the bev­er­age scene with the launch of ARC Botan­i­cal Gin, writes Marga Man­lapig

Philippine Tatler - - CONTENTS -

The Philip­pines’ first-ever craft dis­tillery is set to change the bev­er­age scene with the launch of ARC Gin

he fresh tang of lo­cally-grown cit­rus is over­laid with the fra­grance of lemon­grass and a woodsy-spicy touch of cin­na­mon on one’s palate— an ex­quis­ite melange of flavours that winds down to a fin­ish redo­lent with ju­niper berries and lush, ripe man­goes.

This is the mix of flavours one en­coun­ters with each sip of ARC Gin, the im­pres­sive open­ing salvo of Full Cir­cle Craft Dis­tillers Co, the Philip­pines’ first- ever craft dis­tillery.

Lo­cated in La­guna, the dis­tillery is the brain­child of Matthew West­fall—a man who could truly be said to have the bev­er­age in­dus­try in his blood as his grand­fa­ther, Peter West­fall, was the chemist and flavours ex­pert who de­vel­oped the pop­u­lar soft drink Royal Tru- Orange for San Miguel in the 1920s.

“There are three main in­spi­ra­tions be­hind [the com­pany,]” he says. “The first in­volves my own ex­pe­ri­ences in the Philip­pines over the past 35 years, as well as a de­sire to give some­thing back. The sec­ond is a fam­ily nar­ra­tive about my grand­fa­ther who be­came a Filipino ci­ti­zen in 1926. He was a dis­tiller and chemist who ex­tracted the flavours of trop­i­cal fruits for a line of soft drinks. The third is the rich his­tory of the Philip­pines and its won­drous ar­ray of ex­otic botan­i­cals which were first doc­u­mented by the Span­ish priest Fray Miguel Blanco in his the­sis Flora de Filip­inas in 1837.”

Full Cir­cle Craft Dis­tillers is, for West­fall, both a pas­sion pro­ject and a fam­ily af­fair: aside from

his grand­fa­ther’s legacy in the in­dus­try, it’s also a hus­band-and-wife en­deav­our as his wife Lau­rie’s in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence in man­age­ment and fi­nance has been in­stru­men­tal in the com­pany’s growth over the past decade. To­day, the West­falls’ ef­forts are pay­ing off with the launch of their prod­ucts into the mar­ket.

The dis­tillery’s flag­ship prod­uct, Ar­chi­pel­ago Botan­i­cal Gin, is a beau­ti­fully bal­anced, cit­rusfor­ward spirit that is hand­crafted with 28 ex­otic botan­i­cals, 22 of which have been sourced, for­aged, and har­vested lo­cally. Each small batch of the gin be­gins with a pre­mium ex­tra-neu­tral al­co­hol base dis­tilled from 100 per cent French wheat. This base is in­fused with var­i­ous trop­i­cal fruit and herbs, in­clud­ing pome­los, da­lan­dans (sweet green oranges), cala­mansi and dayap limes, man­goes, pine buds,

sam­pa­guita (na­tive jas­mine), ylang-ylang, and camia (white gin­ger) blos­soms. Along with the ju­niper berries that give gin its char­ac­ter­is­tic kick and var­i­ous spices en­demic to the Philip­pines, th­ese botan­i­cals are mac­er­ated in cop­per stills prior to dis­til­la­tion. Dur­ing dis­til­la­tion th­ese are gen­tly steamed us­ing a vapour bas­ket at the bot­tom of each still’s cop­per col­umn. It should be noted at this point that, un­like large-scale dis­tillers, Full Cir­cle does not chill-fil­tre its spirit in or­der to pre­serve the flavours and aro­mas that were care­fully coaxed out of each in­gre­di­ent. As a re­sult, this gin has a pu­rity of 93.5 per cent al­co­hol by vol­ume (ABV), mak­ing it full-flavoured, de­li­ciously aro­matic, with a mouth­feel that is smooth and truly lux­u­ri­ous.

While the botan­i­cal gin works well ei­ther on its own or mixed into a bevy of re­fresh­ing cock­tails, the best way to take Full Cir­cle’s lat­est cre­ation, Ar­chi­pel­ago Bar­rel Re­serve Gin, is to sip it neat so as to ap­pre­ci­ate its more ro­bust char­ac­ter. Set to launch this month, it starts out with the same process as the flag­ship prod­uct. How­ever, the re­sult­ing spirit goes through one more process: rest­ing in 225-litre bar­rels made of Amer­i­can oak. One would think that do­ing so would im­part an un­pleas­ant harsh­ness to the spirit, given the amount of tan­nins in the wood. But th­ese bar­rels have un­der­gone a toast­ing process that mel­lows th­ese tan­nins and mit­i­gates the sharp taste of the oak. As a re­sult, the bar­rel-rested spirit gains com­plex­ity, hav­ing pulled in nu­ances of vanilla bean, caramel, toasted al­mond, and dark choco­late.

This way of go­ing the ex­tra mile to en­sure prod­uct qual­ity can be con­sid­ered the eth­i­cal core of Full

Cir­cle Craft Dis­tillers. Aside from the use of the best pos­si­ble lo­cal in­gre­di­ents, the com­pany’s ded­i­ca­tion to its craft can also be seen in the way that it takes no short cuts in its work­ing process, its fo­cus on qual­ity con­trol, and the equip­ment it uses for its prod­ucts.

“Our cop­per pot still also sets us apart, a oneof-a-kind, state-of-the-art, au­to­mated 450-litre still made by CARL in Ger­many, whose be­spoke stills are con­sid­ered the Rolls Royce of dis­till­ing,” West­fall says of their dis­till­ing stills. “With this spe­cial equip­ment, our dis­till­ing process is a very slow, care­fully-man­aged eight-hour dis­til­la­tion. Few craft dis­til­leries en­joy this level of con­trol and qual­ity, which we achieve through state-of-the-art au­to­ma­tion, a cus­tom-de­signed cop­per whiskey hel­met, and seven con­trol­lable cop­per plates in the col­umn. Our steam heat is care­fully con­trolled as well, while the pot still is equipped with an au­to­mated ag­i­ta­tor, which to­gether al­lows us to man­age a slow, even dis­til­la­tion where we can sen­si­tively pull out the best es­sen­tial oils of our botan­i­cals, which, in turn, gives us in­cred­i­ble aro­mas and flavours.”

ARC Gin may cur­rently be the dis­tillery’s stock in trade, but this is just the be­gin­ning. The West­falls are on a roll when it comes to prod­uct devel­op­ment. In the near fu­ture, they will be in­tro­duc­ing a se­lec­tion of sea­sonal eaux de vie ( fruit brandies) crafted from lo­cal pro­duce; th­ese were inspired by the aqua vi­tae pro­duced by master dis­tillers in Ger­many. An ex­cep­tional Lava Rock vodka fil­tered through vol­canic rocks sourced from the Taal and Mayon vol­ca­noes is also on of­fer, and will soon be joined by an ex­cel­lent Philip­pine rum crafted by us­ing old-fash­ioned meth­ods and us­ing only sin­gle-es­tate sug­ar­cane. In do­ing so, Full Cir­cle Craft Dis­tillers goes be­yond just mak­ing bev­er­ages: it seeks to ed­u­cate the mod­ern palate and to up­hold pride in lo­cally-grown in­gre­di­ents and Filipino in­no­va­tion.

“On a philo­soph­i­cal level, Full Cir­cle is not sim­ply about the pro­duc­tion of al­co­hol,” West­fall says of his ris­ing com­pany. “Rather, we dis­til our spir­its and work with the rich flora from across the Philip­pines in or­der to trans­form their essence, their char­ac­ter, into a sin­gle mag­i­cal mo­ment of sen­sory en­light­en­ment. In do­ing so, we strive to evoke mem­o­ries and cre­ate ex­pe­ri­ences that awaken a gen­uine awareness of na­ture and cre­ation.”

spirit of el­e­gance The state-ofthe-art cop­per stills; (op­po­site) 28 ex­otic botan­i­cals go into each bot­tle

in the mix (Clock­wise from top left) Chemist Peter West­fall; Freshly dis­tilled gin; Pres­sure gauges for the stills; The Cloudrun­ner cock­tail pairs ARC Gin with Sa­gada blue­ber­ries

lo­cal de­lights (Clock­wise from top left) Full Cir­cle’s La­guna dis­tillery; Fresh botan­i­cals in vapour bas­kets; ARC Gin gift boxes

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